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When Rupert Murdoch Used to Call Me at FCC

Rupert Muchdoch - Wikipedia photo
In 1994 one of the odder experiences in my nearly 25 year career at FCC was a pair of phone calls from Rupert Murdoch, who has been in the news recently. This seems like a good time to document this event.

Chairman Hundt was going to attend the opening of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Kyoto Japan along with VP Gore. Scott Harris had recently joined FCC and was getting the International Bureau up and going at the time and had trouble finding the resources to plan the Chairman’s trip. I approach Scott and said that since I had experience in Japan I would be glad to be of assistance in any way I could. He graciously accepted the offer.

At one point in the planning, there was interest in having Chmn. Hundt stop in Hong Kong on the way back from the ITU meeting. Hong Kong was scheduled to revert to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 so it was thought that a high level visit from FCC would encourage openness and transparency in the rapidly evolving FCC counterpart there. The only problem was that it was evolving so fast that we didn’t have any up to date information on communications policy regulation in Hong Kong - remember this was prior to widespread websites. Someone at FCC pointed out that Murdoch had properties in Hong Kong and that I should call Preston Padden, “Murdoch’s man in DC”. Padden said he didn’t know much about Hong Kong, but then added “I’ll have Rupert call you - he knows a lot about it”.

Sure enough, a few days later the phone rang in my office and I heard “Rupert Murdoch here” in an Aussie accent. In that call and one later one Murdoch provided useful information on the structure of the Hong Kong regulator and the hot issues there. He also made a strong pitch for inviting Chmn. Hundt on his yacht for a dinner tour of Hong Kong harbor and presumably some conversation. I dutifully reported this to appropriate people involved in the trip planning, but before anyone had time to decide on details of the Hong Kong side trip a schedule conflict for Chmn. Hundt popped up concerning the need for him to speak at a spectrum user group conference in the US at the same time. as the Hong Kong visit.

So the Hong Kong side trip was cancelled and Murdoch never called me back again. I thought we had become friends.
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